Handbook of Language and Literacy Development - a Roadmap from 0 to 60 Months

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Listening (0-12 Months)click to print Print

Written by: Heather Sample Gosse, University of Alberta

Talk with your infant from the very first day of his or her life. You are better than any toy. Your baby's attention will be readily captured by the sound of your voice.

Have fun with your voice when talking with your baby. Try keeping your voice low sometimes and then make it go high. Speak softly and then louder. Draw out your words - Helloooo babeee! This can be fun to do when reading books to your baby. Your baby will learn many important things about the sounds of your language.

Spend time talking with your baby face-to-face. This will allow you to watch your baby's reaction to your voice. Pause when talking to give your baby a chance to take a turn.

Comfort your baby with your voice. By four to six months of age a baby can be comforted by a caregiver's reassuring voice. If your baby is making worried sounds and you can't come right away, try calling out to him or her.

As your baby gets older, keep making a special effort to talk with him or her. Try telling your baby what you are going to do next as you feed or change him or her. Even if you cannot be face-to-face, talk about what you are doing as you do it. Your baby will even enjoy hearing about how you are washing the dishes or working on the computer!

In the second six months of life, your baby works to break the speech he or she hears into meaningful pieces. Help him or her out by sometimes speaking in single words or short phrases. Label the objects he or she touches - "block", "ring" - when playing, the pieces of clothing - "shirt", "pants", "top", "skirt" - as you put them on, and the pictures in favorite books. Use the same words over and over again. Don't worry if baby doesn't seem to respond. Repetition will help your baby learn the names of objects.

Pair your words with the action. For example, say "clean up" while beginning to pick up the toys. This will help your baby learn the meaning of the words. As always, repetition is very important. Your child will need to hear the same words many times in a variety of situations in order to really understand them.

Sometimes you will need to say "no" to your baby to warn them of dangers in their environment. Your baby will get the message better if you also use a disapproving tone of voice and expression. Again, pair your words with the action. For example, while saying "no", remove the baby from the situation and/or distract him or her with a safe activity.